Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Cather in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: A Short Review

I read this book many years ago but had forgotten much of the story.

The character Holden Caulfield - depressed, ADD, suicidal, and struggling with a form of mental illness (my opinion and not meant pejoratively) - struggles not to fall out of all earthly sight but is also aware that he is on the edge of just that. He wants desperately for deep connection with other human beings but he frankly doesn't like other human beings.

It's pretty clear that at this point in his life - kicked out of yet another school - that others in his life sort of like him on some level but become quickly aware that Holden has issues that put them off. The only person who is an exception is his baby sister Phoebe, whose unconditional love and willingness to abide with him, turns out to be his salvation.

A couple of things I saw this time that I don't remember seeing before. First, those people in his life who do like and care for Holden see his brilliance and giftedness - his former teacher Mr. Antolini for one - are utterly helpless to get through to Holden. You can feel their hopelessness and also their lack of knowledge about the reality of mental illness. Again, it's only his baby sister who intuitively knows what's at stake and what to do.

Second, Holden sees himself as the Catcher saving the playing children running through a field of rye from falling over the cliff. What he doesn't see is that he isn't the Cather but one of the children in need of one. He doesn't see - or maybe he does given the ending - that Phoebe is the Catcher.

J. D. was really a writer way ahead of his time.